Ellen Bildsten, Principal Architect, AIA, LEED AP

Photo by Kate Bildsten, 2014

Photo by Kate Bildsten, 2014

Ellen’s parents immigrated from Europe to Queens, New York where she grew up; they lived in Cairo, Egypt from 1978-80 due to her father’s work with Marcel Breuer Architects.

She graduated with a B. Arts and B. Arch from the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell University in 1990. After moving across the country with husband Lars and the first of their three daughters, Ellen worked on commercial revitalization of Old Town Pasadena at Dahl-Insua Architects until 1994. While living in Berkeley, she worked at Elbasani Logan ELS Architects on Cragmont elementary and large-scale commercial projects in Florida and Oregon for the Rouse Corporation.

Ellen has been a licensed architect since 1995 and is an active member of state and local AIA (American Institute of Architects). After moving with the family to Santa Barbara in 1999, she worked on custom residential projects with Bob Easton Architects. She and Susan Sherwin were the partners of Bildsten + Sherwin Design Studio from 2002 until 2014, When Ellen established the latest architectural (ad)venture – Bildsten Architecture and Planning.

  • 2014-present   Principal Architect, Bildsten Architecture and Planning Inc. 
  • 2014-present   Board member, Coastal Housing Coalition 
  • 2011                  President, AIA Santa Barbara
  • 2009                 LEED AP Certification 
  • 2008-present  Board member, AIA Santa Barbara
  • 2002-2014       Principal Architect, Bildsten + Sherwin Design Studio Inc. 
  • 1999-2001        Project Architect, Bob Easton AIA Architects
  • 1996-1999        Project Architect, ELS Architecture and Urban Design 
  • 1995-1996        Project Architect, Philip Banta & Associates Architecture
  • 1995                  California Architect license 
  • 1991-1994         Project Architect, Dahl-Insua Architects Inc.
  • 1990                  Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art and Planning - B. Arch                                               and College of Arts and Sciences, B. Arts - Art History  

Erica Obertelli, Project Management & Design, Assoc. AIA

Photo by Kate Bildsten, 2015

Photo by Kate Bildsten, 2015

After moving to the United States at age 6, Erica Obertelli grew up in an 1820's farmhouse outside of Boston which her family gradually completely renovated.  She returned to the UK to finish high school, winning the all-school art prize upon graduation.  She got a liberal arts degree in Literature with a concentration in Art and a Masters of Education in Montessori teaching.  Moving to Santa Barbara in 2002, she worked as a primary teacher at Santa Barbara Montessori School for 6 years before returning to school to pursue a Masters of Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona, where she was awarded several teaching assistantships and invitations to exhibit her work.  Her graduate thesis proposed a 42-acre sustainable community center and park in downtown Los Angeles.  The center and surrounding park would serve one of the most economically depressed and least verdant areas of LA, providing outdoor space, classes, community gardens and pedestrian connections.  At Winick Architects from 2011-2015, Erica managed several high fashion store remodels before joining Bildsten Architecture and Planning, where she has taken on the design and project management for a wide variety of projects.

California Polytechnic University in Pomona, CA, M.Arch, 2011.
Loyola University, Baltimore, MD, M.Ed (Montessori Education), 2002.
University of Dallas, College of Art, B.A. (Literature and Art), 1999.
Rome Study abroad Program, 1997.

Membership & Affiliation
American Institute of Architects Associate Member 2011- Present
NCARB Member

Bill Lutter, Project Management & Design, Assoc. AIA


University of Texas at Arlington, School of Architecture, M Arch,  1999.
Post Baccalaureate - University of Washington, Schools of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Art and Languages, 1981-1989.
BA Anthropology - University of Washington, School of Anthropology, 1981.

Membership & Affiliation
American Institute of Architects Associate Member

Present & Past Interns

Not photographed:  Anna Nesterenko - student at Anacapa High School 


Our concept of a vibrant architecture practice involves collaboration with related fields of design and construction.  Together with our friends at Santa Barbara Contractors Association and Windward Engineering, we located a building in the up-and-coming industrial part of Santa Barbara.  Renovations to modernize and open the space to air and light have yielded a creative, collaborative dynamic among all of us in the building.